Totally Unnecessary Character Analyses:Was Carol Brady’s First Marriage A Verbally Abusive One?
Want to start something new. A series of essay’s exploring in depth a character or TV series. As some may know, I graduated with a degree in Psychology and so find that kind of stuff interesting. I am no expert, at all, but it’s still a subject I enjoy discussing.
The Brady Bunch is one of my favorite TV shows ever! We all know the story, even if you hate the show. Single mother of three girls married to single father of three boys. The result? The perfect TV family! But are they really perfect? Well today I wanted to take a close look at one member of the family in particular. I briefly touched on this way back in a Sitcom Face-Off, but will explore the topic further. And the important thing to remember is this is all in fun of course.
Carol Brady was originally Carol Martin. We know what happened to Mike’s wife, but what happened to Carol’s husband? While no one can say for sure it’s safe to assume he died. The only indication is the line in the pilot “A few years ago I thought it was the end of the world”. But, what if he didn’t? And why is he never talked about? I have always had one theory. That the guy was abusive to Carol. Now to be reasonable I am not saying she was battered and beaten up (god bless those who are and have to deal with that) but may have been the victim of a short tempered man who when he lost his temper really lost his temper! This was someone who did you not want to upset because if you did, he would flip out.
Now you may wonder, how can I possibly make a statement like that? Well you could begin with the fact that the guy is never talked about, but that is not conclusive. She was lucky one way or another and found a good man in Mike Brady, but the signs of what she went through in her previous marriage tend to pop up from time to time.
I don’t want to get into a speel, so real quick domestic violence is when someone seeks control of another person through yelling, name calling, assult, and other things. When someone has had this happen, there can be many symptoms. But the main one, in its simplest form and for our discussion, is fear. The victim begins to fear doing anything that will incite the agressor and cause them harm. Even after the relationship is over. And though Carol is married to the greatest guy, she does demonstrate such symptoms. It seems everytime some sort of bad news is to be delivered, she worries herself about it even though Mike has denonstrated that he is a reasonable man and will not overreact.
When have we seen Carol Brady exhibit these traits? Let’s run down some examples:
“A Clubhouse Is Not a Home” from Season 1
Ok here is an interesting one. This is the second episode so you can assume probably right after Mike and Carol were married. The episode involves the boys fighting with the girls because the boys want their clubhouse to themselves. I never got that in this series, why the boys had to share EVERYTHING. Anyway, I digress. At the end of Act 1 Carol and Mike are discussing the issue. Carol says that women should be able to do anything a man can. Mike quips “What about growing a beard?” Suddenly, Carol cries and says that wasn’t funny. You could argue she was just upset they were arguing, but still crying seems like an extreme reaction. Unless she was remembering arguments with her previous husband and it was getting a little to real.
“Going, Going… Steady” from Season 2
In this episode we have Marcia falling for a nerdy Havey Klinger (for some reason). Carol encourages her to ask Harvey out, and then Marcia announces they are “going steady”. Carol worries how she will tell this to Mike, and waits until the morning to do it when he will be rested. When she does tell him this she immediately apologizes for letting Marcia go out with him and insists that she should have listened to him in the first place. His reaction? He’s fine with it! He says going steady is not the same as it was when they were kids (today it means nothing, but I digress). What was Carol so worried about?
“A Fistful of Reasons” from Season 2
Here is an interesting one. When Peter is picked on by the school bully, of course Mike and Carol don’t want him to fight. They try to reach out to the parents, but Mike’s efforts to talk to the father fail. So Mike says if Peter has to fight he can. Carol decides the best thing to do is talk to the mother, insisting that women are able to talk calmly and work things out. You know, not argue and yell. The mother is very passive, and basically refuses to meddle in her husbands affirs concering their son. Carol gets angry and storms out, possibly because she sees in this mother the woman she used to be in her first marriage?
“Tell it Like it Is” from Season 2
I hate this episode, but I digress. When the episode opens we find Mike in bed alone. He wanders down to his den where he finds Carol hard at work on an article. She snuck down at night and has kept this a secret. Um, why? This is a small example but you have to wonder why in he world Carol was afraid to tell Mike about the article she wanted to write.
“The Fender Benders” from Season 3
When Carol has an accident with the Station Wagon, we open to find her worried to death about what to tell Mike. It ends up being Greg who spills the beans, and while Mike is angry at first he quickly gets over it and supports his wife. Why was Carol so worried at the start of the episode? It was a minor accident and no one was hurt! I also find it interesting that in the opening how it’s Marcia, the oldest daughter, who cautiously asks Carol what she is going to tell Dad.
“Greg’s Triangle” from Season 4
This is a minor story in the episode, but a perfect example of what I am talking about. Carol decides to surprise Mike and learn to golf. If you can see this episode watch the scene with Mike and Carol in the kitchen. We see Carol sitting at the table alone when the scene starts, all upset. Mike comes in and she explains what she was trying to do. She also explains that her practicing ruined his best Nine Iron. He is annoyed but quickly forgives her!
“Quarterback Sneak” from Season 5
So you may be asking, am I being to critical? Do these examples prove that Carol was in that kind of marriage? But let’s take a look at this episode, a rare gem from Season 5. In the subplot, Carol is visited by her old high school boyfriend. The guy, named Tank Gates, is a big loudmouth egomaniac who you could imagine was a wild partier as a kid. He couldn’t be more unlike Mike. So, how did Carol go from someone like Tank to Mike? Well thee ex was in between the two. Maybe the ex husband was a lot like Tank, someone who is way into himself and makes everythig about him. By the end of the episode even Carol herself has had it with Tank, relieved she ended up with Mike who, again, is the opposite of him in every way.
“A Very Brady Christmas”
This is one is fascinating to me! At this point Mike and Carol have been married twenty years. Ok, so Carol gets a call from the movie’s jerk named Ted Roberts. Roberts has hired Mike, thanks to Carol’s recommendation. However Roberts and Mike are having a difference of opinion. So he is calling Carol to get her to influence Mike. What a jerk! Anyway, after the call Carol is very upset and worries about how she will tell this to Mike. She even, and I am not kidding now, practices what she is going to say, very calmly, on Alice while preparing a romantic dinner with soft music and candle light. Almost as if she is afraid Mike will get angry and flip out, so her goal is to make him as calm as possible. What happens, of course, is Carol tells Mike who reacts the same way he alway does. He supports his wife and tells her not to worry about it! I love the scene to, you can literally see Mike decide what he is going to do about the jerk. Good bit of acting by Robert Reed, and of course the next scene is Mike very nicely telling Roberts to go F*** himself. But, why was Carol so worried about this, even practicing on Alice? I mean did she really think he was going to react any other way than how he reacted? You can forgive the earlier examples since they hadn’t been married long but here?
So what am I driving at? When I was growing up my father was one who yelled. One thing he always did was stare at me while I was working on something, and if I wasn’t doing it correctly the name calling started. To this day, if I am doing something and someone is watching, anyone, I get nervous even if there is no reason to. Now I am not sharing this to make people feel sorry for me just to point out why I think I see these traits in Carol. When bad news is coming to Mike, it seems like she worries about him flipping out out of habbit, and will try little tricks to try to prevent the flip out. Because her first husband would flip out and start yelling. So she can’t help but get nervous until she saw for herself that Mike was cool. If that’s true than Carol deserves credit for picking up and moving on, and trying not let that past affect her future. She manages to find a good man who really loves her, and is able to make the marriage work wih all six kids being happy and healthy. To me, Carol Brady deserves a lot more credit as a character than many people are willing to give.
Then again maybe I am just overanalyzing. I love this show and always will. As I said this is all for fun, and I hope to do more unnecessary character analyses in future articles.